Laser Mission

Year 1989

Brandon Lee as   Michael Gold
Debi A. Monahan   as  Alissa
Ernest Borgnine as Prof. Braun
Graham Clarke as Col. Kalishnakov  
Werner Pochath as Eckhardt
Pierre Knoessen as Ma˝uel
Maureen Lahoud as Sgt. Roberta
Director - BJ Davis
Story   - David A. Frank
Screenwriter - Phillip Gutteridge

I looked and looked at my criteria for being a nasty movie, and Laser Mission somehow does not qualify. That's not to say that it's not that bad of a movie, because it is...that bad.

The plot is that super freelance spy Michael Gold (Lee) must entice and extract Prof. Braun (Borgnine) from an unfriendly foreign government. Just from the names, you can tell the level of imagination behind the camera. Wernher von Braun, in case you didn't know, was an ex-Nazi who gave the U.S. its space program after World War II. And can anyone named "Gold" fail? If they did, then they wouldn't be, "Good as gold."

And what about someone named Kalishnakov? Do you think he likes guns? After all, that's what the "K" in an AK-47 stands for - Kalishnakov. All right, it's Kalishnikov, but it's close enough.

So, we've got Braun in some foreign country. I'm not sure which. One thing about this movie is that you never know where you are. The writer implies that it's Cuba as in Gold asking the customs official, "Where can I get a Cuban cigar?" but then street signs are not in Spanish and there's a neighboring country called Zimbabawaybi (or something like that). Can't be Cuba.

If you're counting on local color to help you out, you're on your own. The surroundings are a mixture of dunes (North Africa?), eastern European (Praque?) architecture, Mediterranean architecture (Crete?) and Middle Eastern animals (camels). Somewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean, you might think.

Then why does everyone insist that they're part of a Spanish speaking army? Except for Sergeant Roberta, no one looks like they're part of a Spanish anything. And poor Ma˝uel, who is played by a guy whose first name is Pierre is not even close to being swarthy.

There are definite problems with anything not related to the United States. It was as if someone needed a vacation, so they thought they'd film a movie wherever they ended up and expense everything. Wait! I just decided how we might figure out where they were. All of the vehicles have steering wheels on the right. A quick check of wiki shows that southern Africa has left hand driving rules for cars with steering wheels on the right. And Zimbabwe (a real country as opposed to the name that came out of the movie) is there with the drive on the left rules.

Less easy to figure out is Borgnine's accent. Is it Russian? He said something about Russia once and his daughter is supposedly ex-KGB. Some words sound like he's trying out a Russian accent. Other words don't. Is it Spanish? Again it's hit and miss. German? Well, his name is Braun and he refers to his daughter as liebschen, so maybe it's German. It's not like he says, "ze" for "the" or attempts in most scenes to have any kind of accent at all. Still, once in a while there's something there that sounds more foreign than Hamden, Connecticut. Maybe it's German.

The accent isn't the worst thing about this movie. Here's another way to let you know what you're in for. With a name like Laser Mission you've got to figure that lasers are somehow part of story. Probably, at least I thought, that lasers are weapons. Makes sense, and the plot seems to mention Professor Braun being able to develop lasers as weapons. So why, during the opening credits of Laser Mission are we treated the sight and sound of shotguns being fired? In slow motion sometimes. I would've expected to see something, uh, laser-y. Wrong. Shotguns are what you get.

If you can accept that, then you can accept things like being stuck in a desert without food or water for three days and not worrying about food or water or getting your clothes messy the entire time, like Gold and Alissa. Then, when the pair finally come out of the desert, they get their clothes pressed! Not cleaned and pressed. Just pressed. Even the high heels that Alissa wore as she traipsed through the desert (yes, you read that right) aren't so much as scuffed. These two blessed creatures of nearly godlike lineage are that much better than us mere mortals.

But, if they're so good, then how can they fall asleep in the middle of a caravan and have it move off without them waking up? That was a "great" scene, too. The intrepid duo run into a guy with a bunch of camels who's swigging Jack Daniels...because I guess Jack Daniels is available by camel in the middle of Zimbabawabi (a whop bam boo). They fall asleep and in the morning, the camel trader and his camels are gone. But he left his tent. Why? I dunno.

On occassion, I thought this movie was intended to be funny. With scenes like

Gold after witnessing a guillotine slice through a head of cabbage: Needs sharpening.

"Needs sharpening"? It didn't crush the head of cabbage, it sliced through it cleanly. Talk about stretching so far to get something that you hurt yourself. And it wasn't even clever. "Needs sharpening. Yup. Yup. Yup. Derp. Derp. Derp." Dope.

How about a passing comment (put down?) on his way out of a room

Gold: You two know how to win friends and influence people.

Hey, Brandon, let Arnie handle the one liners. Nothing beats, "Stick around."

There are two characters that sort of act like a C3PO and R2D2 in heat. One of them is our blond Frenchman - Ma˝uel.

Gold: What is your name?
Ma˝uel: Ma˝uel, El Capitan.
Gold: I will remember that name.

Why? Because Ma˝uel's such a unique moniker? But, Gold doesn't remember it after all.

By then I realized this movie wasn't intended to be a comedy. The writing is the just that bad. It's not a failed comedy. It's an embarrassment.

A little research told me that the director is also a stunt man. I'd guess a mediocre stunt man from the scenes in the movie. They really don't add anything. I mean, if you think that soldiers should just appear in jeeps and trucks so that vehicles can overturn, then I guess this is your director. But, I don't think that makes sense. Neither does shooting one blast from a shotgun and having two men fall dead. Or shooting out of the side of a car and hitting the jeep that's immediately behind you. Or lots of other silly stuff.

The best part of the movie is the score by David Knopfler. That's not saying much. But when Knopfler let himself go, well, it reminded me of Ry Cooder. Keep in mind that it's not Ry Cooder and there are only a few times when the music reminded me of Ry Cooder. The rest of the time it's some sort of pseudo-disco nonsense. But, once in a while it reminded me...that I should dig out my old CDs of Ry Cooder scores.

No profanity or nudity. Too much Debi A. Monahan. (She sounds like a cross between a widdle girl and a nitwit.) Jokes that fail. Scenes that fail. Acting that fails. (Brandon Lee learned nothing about choreographed fighting from his father if his spaz motions are any indication.) Even Ernest Borgnine can't laser this one away.

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